Robert Lloyd’s best TV of 2018: ‘Lodge 49,’ ‘Random Acts of Flyness’ and Beyoncé’s Coachella stream

2018's year in review for television.
(Michael Waraksa / For the Times)
Television Critic

Some new things on a television screen I loved in 2018. Twelve items magically compressed into 10.

1. “Lodge 49” (AMC)

Brent Jennings, left, portrays lodge "knight" Ernie Fontaine and Wyatt Russell is Sean "Dud" Dudley in "Lodge 49."
(Jackson Lee Davis / AMC)

The eccentric South Bay saga, in which a sidelined surfer falls in with the crowd at a local Shriners-type hall, is full of mystery and magic adventure and feeling, with memorable characters in circumstances that somehow manage to be ordinary and fantastic at once. Full review

2. “Random Acts of Flyness” (HBO) / “Joe Pera Talks With You” (Adult Swim)

Justin Thomas is shown in a segment half-infomercial, half-dream, from Terence Nance’s HBO series “Random Acts of Flyness.”
(Seher Sikander / HBO)


Art television. “Random Acts of Flyness,” the exuberant, exquisite variety-show magazine of African American life and culture from indie filmmaker and artist Terence Nance, is dense yet fleet, political but mystical and as playful with form as anything outside of Adult Swim. Joe Pera’s dry, luminous miniature about an awkward middle-school music teacher in love with the rocks, people and breakfasts of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is actually on Adult Swim, but sweeter than its rowdy stablemates, a supposedly informational series that really just wants to tell a story. “Random Acts” review | “Joe Pera” review

Joe Pera in a scene from "Joe Pera Talks With You."
Joe Pera in a scene from “Joe Pera Talks With You.”
(John Nowak / Adult Swim)

3. “The Kids Are Alright” (ABC)

In "The Kids Are Alright," from left, Sawyer Barth, Santino Barnard, Christopher Paul Richards, Caleb Foot, Mary McCormack and Jack Gore play members of an Irish American family.
(Tony Rivetti / ABC)

Clever and credible, the straight-ahead sitcom I watch weekly. (Among ABC family comedies this is the one where the family is Irish-Catholic.) Mary McCormack is the house-smart dry wit managing husband Michael Cudlitz and a variety pack of eight boys in early 1970s suburban Los Angeles. Full review

4. “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” (HBO)

Garry Shandling, left, and Judd Apatow on the set of “The Larry Sanders Show.” Apatow directed a documentary about his old boss and mentor, “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling,” for HBO.
(Larry Watson / HBO)

Judd Apatow’s four-hour biographical love letter to his friend and mentor, the late comic Garry Shandling, much of it in Shandling’s own voice, is a deep and complex portrait of a person figuring out how to live, which also meant, in the midst of life, how to die. Judd Apatow interview

5. Beyoncé streaming from Coachella

Beyoncé performs at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival in Indio on Saturday, April 14, 2018.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Even if you were watching from home, you had to be there — Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s first-weekend headlining set from Coachella (the first by an African American woman, she let the world know), staged for the field and the cameras with equal intention and intelligence, went out live and then went away, maybe forever. Full review


6. “Summer Camp Island” (Cartoon Network)

Monsters, witches, aliens and talking-animal kids mix and mingle (and pay passing homage to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) in “Summer Camp Island” on Cartoon Network.
(Cartoon Network)

Talking animals, some of whom are witches, and all manner of sentient beings and things populate this world-away world, rendered with a handmade delicacy by “Adventure Time” vet Julia Pott. Surreal comedy, emotional veracity. Full review

7. “This Close” (Sundance Now)

Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman are the creators, writers and stars of "This Close," a Sundance Now series about deaf best friends.
(Gunther Campine / Sundance Now)

The first television series created, written by and starring deaf artists (Shoshannah Stern and Josh Feldman are behind it and in it). “This Close” mines familiar friends-and-lovers situations with feeling, but with new details and unique rhythms. Bilingual. Full review


8. “Barry” (HBO)

Bill Hader plays a hitman lost in Hollywood in the HBO comedy “Barry.”
(John P. Johnson / HBO)

Bill Hader’s comedy about a contract killer who falls in love with acting and the promise of a better life is more complex and nuanced than it might sound on paper, and as suspenseful and heartbreaking as anything on television. And funny. Full review

9. “The Bisexual” (Hulu) / “Sally4Ever” (HBO)

Sadie (Maxine Peake), left, and Leila (Desiree Akhavan) are a longtime couple on a break or breaking up in the Hulu series "The Bisexual."
(Tereza Cervenova / Hulu)

Two incisive comedies of sexual reorientation, from and starring Desiree Akhavan and Julia Davis, respectively. The first is pensive and languid, the second acid-wicked. Full review

Catherine Shepherd in the HBO series Sally4Ever.
(Sky / HBO)

10. “Counterpart” (Starz)

J.K. Simmons, left, plays a low-level bureaucrat drawn into an alternate reality by his boss, played by Harry Lloyd in the Starz drama “Counterpart.”
(Anne Marie Fox / Starz Entertainment LLC)

“Fringe” meets “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.” In this complicated political thriller, modern-day Berlin is still a divided city, but one split between cold-warring separate realities, joined through a checkpoint known to few. J.K. Simmons and Olivia Williams are a couple — that is, two couples, identical but different — literally mixed up in it. Full review.

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The conversation: A chat with Ashley Jensen on her return to ‘Agatha Raisin’

Follow Robert Lloyd on Twitter @LATimesTVLloyd